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China Sentences Uighur Journalist to 15 Years for Speaking About Riots


A court in China's troubled northwestern region of Xinjiang has sentenced an ethnic Uighur journalist to 15 years in prison for speaking to foreign journalists about deadly riots there a year ago.

Friends of Gheyret Niyaz say he was sentenced after a one-day trial in Urumqi, the regional capital. He was found guilty of "endangering national security" -- a charge that Chinese authorities often impose on people who speak to foreign media about sensitive topics.

The 51-year-old Niyaz was an editor for the website Uighurbiz-dot-net, which reports on Uighur culture and life. After deadly riots in Xinjiang last year, the Chinese government accused Uighurbiz-dot-net of instigating violence.

Nearly 200 people were killed and hundreds more injured in the rioting, the worst ethnic violence in China for decades. Authorities arrested hundreds of people, and about two dozen of them were sentenced to death.

Niyaz was detained in October. His 15-year sentence is seen as particularly harsh for someone who was not involved in the violence.

China blocked Internet traffic, text messaging and most international telephone calls after the rioting. Communication links were restored earlier this year.

Authorities in the majority Muslim region have installed 40,000 security cameras in and around Urumqi. Several thousand new police officers have been hired since the riots.

Uighurs are an ethnic Turkic Muslim group linguistically and culturally distinct from Han Chinese, the country's majority ethnic group. Many Uighurs resent what they say is Beijing's heavy-handed control over Xinjiang. They also say they suffer from job discrimination and poverty.

Uighur exile groups say these factors, plus long-simmering resentment about ethnic Han migration to the region, led to the unrest. Beijing blames the deadly fighting on Uighur separatists.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Reuters

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